December 23, 2008 / 1:14 PM / 10 years ago

Four animal rights activists guilty of blackmail

LONDON (Reuters) - Four British animal rights activists were found guilty on Tuesday of blackmailing companies which supplied Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a firm that conducts tests on animals.

Gerrah Selby, 20, Daniel Wadham, 21, Gavin Medd-Hall, 45, and Heather Nicholson, 41, were accused of orchestrating a campaign of blackmail against the Cambridgeshire-based company between 2001 and 2007, the Press Association reported.

Selby, Wadham, Medd-Hall and Nicholson denied the charges but were found guilty at Winchester Crown Court.

Three others — Gregg Avery, Natasha Avery and Daniel Amos — pleaded guilty to conspiracy to blackmail. Trevor Holmes, 51, was cleared.

The activists were part of a group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, which used tactics such as false allegations of pedophilia against managers of supplier companies, hoax parcel bombs, criminal damage and threatening phone calls to force them to cut links with HLS, the court heard.

Another tactic was to send used sanitary towels or needles in the mail, saying they were contaminated with the AIDS virus. Some employees of firms linked to HLS had slogans such as “Puppy Killer” daubed with paint on roads outside their homes.

Sentencing was set for January 19.

writing by Kate Kelland, editing by Adrian Croft

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